Sam Glaser: Heightened vibration

by | Aug 16, 2012 | What’s Happening

Sunday, Sept. 23, 2:30pm

Sam Glaser knows how to transform an audience with his music. He will bring his high-energy performance to Congregation Beth El next month. Temple Emanuel asked Glaser to come to Tidewater from his hometown of Los Angeles for this concert and to act as their cantor for the synagogue’s High Holidays services.

Music has always been a part of Glaser’s soul. At two years old he was harmonizing and when his mother, a pianist, set his third grade poems to music, seven-year-old Glaser corrected her, insisting she wasn’t correctly playing the melodies. He had already heard the tunes in his mind. One of four sons, his family could have formed their own band, complete with a guitarist, a trumpet player, a bass player, pianists and vocalists.

As members of a Conservative synagogue, Glaser went begrudgingly to afternoon Hebrew school. Friday evenings, however, were always special. Guests came for Shabbat dinner and after the meal, everyone gathered around the piano and sang songs from musicals, tunes written by Gershwin, Cole Porter and Carol King, the best of the 60s and a repertoire of Jewish melodies. During his Bar Mitzvah studies, Glaser’s cantor recognized his extraordinary talent and began to teach him the full spectrum of liturgy.

Today, his compositions resonate with all ages. His goal is to transport concert goers with open hearts to a place of heightened spirituality. Adults leave his performances feeling uplifted and appreciates the rare opportunity to experience the wonder of Jewish peoplehood. From toddlers to teens, kids think Sam Glaser is “cool,” while he also serves as a powerful role model.

Before a concert, Glaser finds a quiet space to go inward. “I give a lot during my concerts, so I have to prepare myself for that emotional exchange,” he says. The reciprocal energy nourishes and recharges him. The sharing starts the moment he steps on stage. He confesses that his concerts are an “out of body” experience.

His wife, Shira’s favorite compositions are his love songs to God. Glaser says, “As a modern Orthodox Jew, I feel that living spiritually allows me to create a continuum where there is no boundary between my daily activities and service to God. Judaism has actually given me the clarity to see that life can be a living prayer.” Glaser finds that much of his inspiration comes from the master text of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch. Instead of feeling restricted by Jewish practice, Glaser feels that “his spiritual journey has become enhanced immeasurably by living with a system of mitzvot, Shabbat, holidays and blessings.”

Videos of his concerts and of his family are on his website, “I am crazy for my three kids, Max, Jesse and Sarah. I can plan an entire day of whirlwind adventure just so I see the joy on their faces, reflecting life’s sweetness,” he smiles. His Fatherhood album was inspired by his unadulterated love for them and his respect and admiration for his own father. His other two secular albums are also based on family relationships: Shira includes songs from his courtship with his wife. Soap Soup, which has won a Parent’s Choice award and the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, features musical fun for children of all ages.

Glaser says he is extremely disciplined. “It’s the only way for a freelancer to get things done!” He has been named “the most prolific Jewish performer/composer of our times.” He writes and records during the day and often finds himself composing in his dreams. Over the next few years, he will release four new albums to add to his 22.

Hineni, his first album, is about awakening to the excitement of Judaism and his newfound awareness of the miracle of Jewish peoplehood. A Day in the Life includes songs inspired by his first adult experiences with prayer. Across the River illustrates Glaser’s exuberance for traveling and connecting with world Jewry. The Songs We Sing is soon to be a three-volume set covering classical melodies, historical songs and Jewish dance music. Kol Bamidbar celebrates the saga of the Jewish people in the Torah and features a children’s choir.

Glaser loves to include his audiences in his shows. On this trip to Norfolk, several guest vocalists and a choir assembled for the occasion will sing with him. When he travels, he uses a keyboard or plays a piano, frequently accompanied by local musicians. In California, his performances usually incorporate his eight-piece band with some of L.A.’s finest musicians. He has even played many times with the city’s Jewish symphony.

Having travelled the world in concert, from Asia to Europe to Israel, Glaser can visit 50 cities a year. Tidewater, however, holds a special place in his heart because it was one of his first stops, many years ago.

For more information, call 428-2591.

by Karen Lombart